Sunday, December 18, 2016

Caribbean Cruise Day 4

St Thomas, Virgin Island
November 22, 2016

Day 4 was our first port, the Island of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The island was beautiful, the day was not. Cloudy skies threatened rain most of the morning and throughout the rest of the day.  Just like the mailman (Person) not rain, not snow...the Beale's will go. We have never embarked on the cruise line excursions and we were not about to start. Mark and I have found for the most part, paving our own paths have been the most successful (and cheaper) and this time was no exception.
Departing the ship was pretty easy and we were soon greeted by the pirates that often inhabited the Isles many years ago. This pretty pirate attempted to get a pic with the boys. They wanted nothing to do with it.
The plan or lack of one was to do things related to Pirates. Gavin has been playing computer games that made reference to the Pirates of these islands and was very much interested in visiting Blackbeard's Castle.
We found a taxi driver to take us to Blackbeard's castle, but first we were provided a tour of the Island. George our taxi driver ended up being a great resource and informant as he navigated the busy streets.
St. Thomas was at one point own by the Dutch. Production of sugercane and perhaps once the largest port for slave trade many years ago was purchased by the United States for something like 25 million in gold. This included what is known today as the American Virgin Islands.
Despite being an American state, they drive on the left.
The roads are very thin and often I thought we might just go over the sides.

Many of St. Thomas is on mountainous rocks,  houses seemed to vicariously dangle over high inclines.

Oh but the VIEWS!!!

St. Thomas has one race track and they only run one time per year!

On our tour we got a glimpse of all populations. Both the poor area and the rich. Although the cost of living in St. Thomas is not terribly expensive, the Island living makes inhabitants rely heavily on imports. These things can become quite expensive. George explained that a 1/2 gallon of Orange Juice for example coast about $13-.

The area employment rely's heavily on tourism. Its also in the hurricane belt.

I might be persuaded to sell my wares or drive a taxi to have a view like this out my back yard. The possibility of a hurricane....we'll maybe not.
It was unfortunate that we had overcast throughout the day while we were there. I bet these views would have been quite different with the sun shining.
George offered to provide us with a family shot. Look at that we are ALL smiling.
Opps.....well maybe not all. Funny thing about my youngest and most moody 13 year old. His emotions are FLEETING.
As we rode on, George offering information about both the Island and himself. I snapped pictures of the area.

Some of the homes were beautiful with well groomed lawns, while others were put together often with random pieces of wood...grates, and is that a bed frame?

Check out this view and this cool tree. It resembles a pine, but the leaves run upwards. 

A view of the rows of homes delicately placed on rocky mountains.
George took us up to Beacon Point.

Chiseled pictures of a man and a woman are featured at this tourist area, I was not privy to the symbolism or even if there was any.

The views at Beacon point over look Chaotte Amalie and the famous Megens Beach. (We got better views later at a larger tourist location.)

The Chickens and Roosters that wandered everywhere were quite interesting.
...and in this cage was a parrot.  notice how this cage hangs over the mountain.

This tree had unusual leaves? buds? I'm not sure what you would call them.

I also found a little lizard. I'm pretty sure he was a salamander and not any type of lizard at all.

There was this structure as we were desending from the point. I noticed a picture of it also in the google search of Beacon point, but there is no information about what it is, was or anything.
Up next we stopped at yet another over look. Valdamar Hill overlook.  By now several of the cruise ship excursions were catching up with us. We were able to consistently stay just one step ahead of them. At this stop, we were met by "Monica Lewinski" Her owner informed us of her name and offered to take pictures for a small donation.
Isn't she cute. Her owner insisted that we "HOLD THAT ASS TIGHT!!" while he took the shots.
From this viewing point we got a glimpse of our ship! The Norwegian Escape seems to tower the smaller ship behind her.

She sure looks GRAND!
Its quite the scene,

After taking in the views we were charmed with some music. The steel drums often associated with such tropical locations.
The drummer even offered our own little drummer a free lesson.

He did an amazing job!!! The sound is quite lovely really!

Below is a picture of Megens Beach. One of the favorite beaches on the island. Just look at the crystal blue water.

Along the way to our next stop, Mountain Top. The highest point on St. Thomas.

Up we go....
At the Top! Mountain Top that is. This tourist stop was quite interesting. Along with views, there is a souvenir shop, pirates and a GIGANTIC bottle of RUM!

At the overlook.

Here there were a few Pirates too.
This guy lost his arm, Look to the left...its banana's in the trees. COOL!!!

While I waited for the family to shop, I enjoyed the lush surroundings. 

These  trees and bushes are so different from those found at home.
After our mountain top adventure, George drove us on to our desired destination of Blackbeard's castle.  Below is George and Diane. We all really enjoyed George, he was a great guide and a SAFE driver. Thanks George!!!

We were soon in the gates of what has been termed The Williamsburg of the Caribbean.  We choose the self guided walking tour, and were saddened that there was NOT actually a Castle anywhere on the property. We did get a history lesson on Blackbeard the Pirate, which was pretty interesting.
He was born Edward Thatch in 1680 Britain. A sailor turned Pirate. He captured a French merchant vessel he later named Queen Anne's Revenge.Perhaps he is most notorious for his fearful looks and long scraggly beard. Legend is that he would tie fire flints to the ends of his beard to scare his enemies as the flames eliminated his fearful face. We were also told of his many wives he would kill and each ribbon represented one such wife. Although there is no documentation of  legal marriage or that he had ever actually killed anyone.  
The ghost of Blackbeard is said to be seen as strange lights illuminate from the sea. He was killed by Captain Maynard the then governor of North Carolina. The capture of Blackbeard was said to have taken over 25 sword stabbing, five gun shots and a beheading. It was also said that once Blackbeard's headless body was thrown overboard it swam around the ships three times before it finally sank below the waves.  
He sounds like a pretty tough pirate.
After our introduction to Blackbead we were offered the use of the property pools and bar area before we could take a walk to towards the historic buildings found included in the tour. (below is the inside of the tower.)
The Castle or rather the 17th Century Danish Military Tower called Skytsborg Tower pictured here (I took it from the internet.) as I apparently failed to get a good picture of the structure, was said to be taken over by Blackbeard at one point. The structure itself was made of local stone and area sand. Some of the pieces held bits of shells.
Once at the top we got a beautiful view of the area.

Over looking the bay at the port. I think I see a few Pirate ships out there along with the Cruise ships and sailboats.

This picture was taken inside the tower, Sorry it came out blurred.
The military cannons that line the grounds.
The pools offered a nice relief from the heat and I would have enjoyed a dip myself, but the family protested and the tour moved on.  Of course not before a picture of the boys in the gallows.

Another picture of these unique trees. Still never found out the name.
As we moved along we were soon on the pathway to the areas 99 Steps. (I understand there are actually 103 in total.)

 The stones were shipped in from Denmark and legend has it that Blackbeard ascended such steps to take over the tower. Lovely area gardens line the pathways between the steps. It represented a beautiful lifestyle of the day.
Some of the pretty flowers along the way.
The Villa Notman was the first Manors we stopped along on our journey,
Nicely decorated and a wonderful reflection of what these houses may have looked like in the 1700's. As we did not have the tour guide much of what we viewed was guessed. I still know nothing about this house, although there was a nice man who reported that the home was owned by a wealthy merchant.

The furniture was quite lovely.

There was also some interesting pieces of art work. This one was actually kind of creepy. 

Up next along the path..
are several beautiful gardens.
and some statues.
These lovely ladies have a story to tell I'm sure, but there was no one to ask, and no labels surrounding the fountain to offer any insight.
There were also some pretty homes.

Next on our tour was the Haagensen House and Hotel. 

Inside was some beautiful furnishings.

(I could so live here....)

....and some amazing views off the patio.

While we walked the rain started to come down, and the boys had seen just about enough with NO pirates in site.....when finally!

Here is one of me trying to give a Pirate face! Don't mess with this gal. Wonder what my pirate nick name would be?

I found this guy very likable with a young fresh face. He kind of made me think of Peter Pan. I had been taking pictures with my digital camera for most of our time in St. Thomas, but pulled out my phone once the rain started. Her is a few pictures using both. Let me know which ones actually look better. The one above is my expensive Nikon camera. Below is my Samsung 7 phone camera.

Thinking the phone takes better shots.

Above camera, you can barely make out the images facial features...Below my phone 

Here's a up close of the face via phone.

This Pirate is missing both a hand and a leg. Could this be Long John Silver? I don't recall him having a hook for a hand, perhaps he is a fictional blend of both Treasure Islands gold seeking Pirate and fictional croc fearing Captain Hook.

This is Blackbeard and Governor Maynard. Above is camera, below is phone.

Another (above is my camera) below is Capt, Jack Sparrow taken with my phone.

These last three are all with my Nikon.

This was the only Woman Pirate featured. Anne Bonny.
After the pirate we made our way to the Rum bar. (Pictured with my camera....
this one.... with the phone

this is the waterfall taken outside of the rum bar with my phone.

It was at that point that I decided my camera needed to stay back in the cabin the rest of the trip. It really is disappointing that a machine that has been made just to take pictures takes worse pictures then a phone. Not that the phone pictures were all that amazing....just better then the camera. Kind of CRAZY hun?

The rum bar was the last stop before we found our way to the market place and many shops. It began raining much harder at that point, and both the boys as well as my mother in law were ready to call the Island quits. I found a shop that sold Alex and Ani bracelets and added to my collection before we found a cab to take us back to the port area.

another random chicken walking about the area. This one had her babies on a stroll.

I could have stayed and shopped and I might even have made it walking back to the ship, but the rain and the idea of a long walk back had my family soured. Look at the boys face vs mine.

say cheese...... I'd say Mark and I are what one might call Travel Troopers....

I got a close up of the Pirate ship we had seen earlier from way up we drove back to the port.

Ahoy....Captain Blackbeard!!!
Once back at the port, and it was actually quite a long ride. I may not have been too happy walking all the way back now that I knew just how long it took. However...I was not quite ready to end my time in St. Thomas, so Mark, Diane and I did a little more sight seeing and the boys headed back to the ship.
I didn't get the reference when I first saw this miniature reproduction of Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid until later. Duh!!! These Islands were first owned by the Dutch and many of the items that came to the island were from the Denmark including the stones that made the 99 steps. So here she is.... not in the bay of Copenhagen but inland St. Thomas.    
Mark and I posed with the St. Thomas sign before we did a little shopping and headed back to the ship.

I snagged a picture of these lovely lamps....I just found them delightful.
Once back on board we hit up the buffet for a very late lunch and included desert,

I had bites of both!
A quick afternoon picture of the Island from the ship before we set sail and the evening activities began.

Its hard to believe with all we did during the day, that there was more fun to come. A few drinks at the bar, and an a failed attempt at trivia, it was soon time for our second inclusive show.

Our second show was The Brat Pack, This was a collection of dramatic performances and songs loosely based off the 80's movies; The Breakfast Club, 16 Candles, Ferris Beulers Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful Pretty In Pink etc.
The production featured five main characters; The Jock, The Princess, The Nerd, The Rebel and the Loner. Like in the movie the Breakfast club this unlikely crew find themselves in detention and create a friendship that is beyond their clique.
The boys had seen several of the movies, which made it easier for them to relate. We got some great seats with the performers often on stage right behind our heads. I think I liked the Principal/teacher who raided Barry Manalow's wardrobe the most.
My attempt to take a pic as we were passing through with the crowds as we exited and before someone made a be-line to get a shot with the performers.
WOW!!!! What an amazing day!!! The boys, Mark and I had a very late dinner at O'Sheehan's Bar and Grill (Included) before the kids ran off to the teen room and Mark and I watched some football on the top decks before the rain ran us off.